Ocean One And The AC Trips

By my senior year of Junior High School, I had amassed enough white durags to clothe an entire platoon. Flight jackets with their distinctive orange inlay and pristine white Uptowns were my armor, an attempt to blend in with the world around me. I felt as if I had enough cards stacked against me, though I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I spent my days indoors, hunched over my deflated basketball, my fingers calloused as they dribbled the ball on the dusty, carpeted floor of my cramped bedroom. The And1 Mixtape played on a loop on the bulky, 50-pound television set that occupied the center of my primitive entertainment shrine. My walls, plastered with press photos of wrestling superstars, formed a gallery of heroes and inspiration. Good grades were my ticket to the inside track with the WWE, a reward for my academic diligence. Though I was still known as the church boy to those around me, a metamorphosis was brewing. With each monthly trip to Atlantic City to visit my dad, those long rides on the Greyhound bus became a form of therapy. The 2 1/2-hour journey, staring out at the blur of trees whizzing by, the bus hurtling down the highway, was a space for contemplation. My Walkman CD player was my constant companion, the music it played offering me a soundtrack for the rumination on the direction my life was headed. Each visit with my dad held its own rituals. We’d make our way to Ocean One, a mall ingeniously housed within a colossal boat anchored off the Atlantic City boardwalk. There, amidst the echoes of seagulls and the salty tang of the sea, we’d indulge in McDonald’s, our guilty pleasure. Often, we’d wander into antique shops, our eyes glinting with excitement as we admired the gleaming swords and nunchucks displayed in their glass cases. Sometimes, we’d drop by KB Toys to pick up a new miniature golf set. It was a curiosity, a fascination with golf that would stick with me. I had learned early on that the rich and powerful played golf, and I resolved to understand the nuances of the game. I was oblivious to it then, but these moments spent with my father would mold me into the person I was destined to become. In the fleeting time we shared, I observed the suffering his choices had wrought, etching themselves as indelible landmarks on his weary face. And with each visit, a newfound determination to forge a different path would take root within me.

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